Oregon has a digital equity problem. Access to high quality, cost effective broadband is dependent on where you live—particularly in rural Oregon. A recent study by Education Superhighway, found that over 300 K-12 schools in Oregon—nearly 25 percent—lack access to broadband and over 80 percent of all K-12 schools will not meet the broadband standards that become effective in 2017-18. While E-Rate and similar federal programs may reduce the costs of broadband for certain rural schools, they do not ensure the bandwidth necessary to support innovation and to connect other community anchor institutions in rural Oregon. These programs do not address the lack of economic incentives for incumbent broadband carriers to provide broadband services to remote rural communities.

At the same time, Oregon continues to spend a disproportionate amount of money providing executive branch agencies with broadband services. Currently, the state manages over 1,400 Wide Area Network (WAN) circuits on individual contracts. Consequently, there is no aggregation of services or economies of scale and requesting new service may take months as each new circuit needs to be scoped, engineered and bid individually. Under the current model, Oregon pays high prices for poor service, minimal to no redundancy and does little to drive broadband investment throughout Oregon.

Core Legal Issues

  1. “State Agencies” narrowly defined. ORS 283.510(3) limits OSCIO’s provision of ‘advanced digital communications’ to state agencies. Currently the OSCIO does not have the authority to provide those services to, and recover costs from, entities that are not the state or state agencies.
    • Fix. We should enable the OSCIO to provide services to “local governments” and “local service districts” (as defined in ORS 174.116); and “special government bodies” (as defined in ORS 174.111).
  2. ORS 283.520 limits the term of any contract for telecommunications equipment and services to 10 years. Consider amending consistent with intent.
    • Fix. Eliminate the 10-year limitation entirely or substitute with a time consistent with the lifespan of the asset; e.g., 20-year IRUs.
  3. Public-Private-Partnership (P3) enabling language.
    • Fix. Model P3 enabling language on ODOT’s authority to enter into agreements under the Oregon Innovative Partnerships Program pursuant to ORS 367.806

Contributed by: Mike McArthur | AOC Executive Director